GALLIA COUNTY — With the ever growing need to make certain youth are safe, area schools, first responders and social service agencies have partnered in Gallia to prepare youth returning from a rough night at home to a trauma-informed atmosphere at school so students can focus on learning.
“We for a few months have been working on a program started in West Virginia called Handle with Care,” said Gallia Survivor Services Trauma Counselor Amy Sisson. “It allows law enforcement to send a notification when a child is involved in (what may be a traumatic) incident in the night. The purpose of this is so that school staff can be aware and respond appropriately. So, instead of giving punitive action, say a kid falls asleep from being up all night, instead of giving detention, they might give them a break. The purpose is to build resiliency in kids and understanding when they’ve gone through traumatic instances.”
The school will not receive details of a situation but are aware that something happened in an attempt to protect the privacy of the child.
“What it would look like in our county, say for example a deputy may report Johnny Smith, Washington Elementary, handle with care, to dispatch,” said Sisson. “That’s it. Then dispatch passes that along to the school and the school responds appropriately. I have trained all of the administration and teachers in Gallipolis City Schools, Gallia County Local Schools and (Ohio Valley Christian School). We’ve trained all of our law enforcement.”
“The second component of this is building relationships with first responders…We’re starting with law enforcement. They become present in the school and build relationships with kids, whether that is having meals with youth or being present at recess to build positive relationships,” said Sisson.
“Our school officials have been extremely helpful to receive training,” said Sisson.
“Amy has been really instrumental in getting his going,” said Gallia Prosecutor Jason Holdren. “This was kind of a no-brainer. Our teachers are not just teaching anymore. They were there to be just educators. Now we’re making sure kids are safe, clothed and fed and making sure there are plans at home so they can continue to be safe. This is something that our county needs.”
“I heard about HWC a few years ago when (Gallia Juvenile Probate Court Officer) Kevin Plantz mentioned it,” said Sisson. “He and I and a few others wanted to start it, but the timing just wasn’t right. This summer at a conference I met Robyn Vannoy from Hopewell Health Centers, who is the HWC state lead for Ohio, and we started the ball rolling. My role is as the Gallia County Coordinator for Handle With Care. Robyn leads the Meigs program and they were the first county to implement the program in the state. We are the second.”
Community partners involved with the Handle with Care program are the Gallia County Prosecutor’s Office, Gallia Sheriff’s Office, Gallia 911, Gallipolis Police Department, Rio Grande Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol Gallipolis Post, Gallia County Local Schools, Gallipolis City Schools, Buckeye Hills Career Center, Guiding Hand School, Ohio Valley Christian School, Hopewell Health Centers, Gallia-Jackon-Meigs Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Board, Gallia Juvenile Court and Gallia Children’s Services.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.